Georgia-Florida/Florida-Georgia Game By The Numbers

Florida-Georgia. Georgia-Florida. World’s Largest Cocktail Party. Whatever you want to call it, it’s big. The crowds are big, the game is big and the economic impact is big. Here’s a look at the 2009 game by the numbers:

$1 for stadium (down from $100,000 several years ago, it was part of the City of Jacksonville’s new package to keep the game from moving to Atlanta)

20,000 people who travel to Jacksonville for the game – without tickets

24,600 hotel rooms used

$50,000 reimbursed to each school for meals and hotel expenses

$70,000 in parking revenue for the City of Jacksonville

100,000 people who travel to Jacksonville to the game

$200,000 in concessions revenue for the City of Jacksonville

$250,000 for gameday staffing, paid for by the City of Jacksonville (which is $50,000 more than the cost for a Jaguars game)

$300,000 in temporary bleachers paid for by the City of Jacksonville

$1,670,000 in ticket sales to each school

$13,400,000 in direct spending

$23,900,000 in total economic impact

Did They or Didn’t They: The Sugar Bowl and Charitable Donations

I recently began reading Death to the BCS. It was so well written and compelling, that I initially chose to believe every single word.  Although the book is full of disturbing facts about the BCS, two sentences caught my eye and haunted me.

“The Sugar Bowl gave nothing.  Not a buck to the Hurricane Katrina reconstruction effort.”

After pouring over tax returns from 2005, 2006 and 2007, the authors determined that no donations had been made by the Sugar Bowl to anyone.  As someone who gave to the Hurricane Katrina reconstruction effort, and who represents a nonprofit lender who has provided millions in funds to the development of affordable housing in the area, I was appalled.  I immediately took to Twitter and called the lack of charitable giving by the Sugar Bowl “reprehensible.”

Then after a day or so of stewing over the situation, I decided to do my own research.  I found it unbelievable that the Sugar Bowl wouldn’t donate a penny to the Hurricane Katrina rebuilding efforts.  That’s when I came across this article on the Times-Picayune’s website indicating the Sugar Bowl had committed $800,000 to reconstruction in City Park.

I proceeded to tweet out the article, which illicited responses from @DeathtotheBCS (the official Twitter account for the book) and @PlayoffPAC (a political action committee dedicated to bringing a playoff system to college football).  I asked, “@DeathtotheBCS says Sugar Bowl made no charitable donations. Is it true?”  Their responses:

@DeathtotheBCS: “Yes. Tax records show it, bowl doesn’t deny it.”

@PlayoffPAC: “But according to their tax returns, appears nothing ultimately went out the door.”

Far too curious to be satisfied with those responses, I decided to contact both the Sugar Bowl and City Park.  First, the response I received from John Hopper, Chief Development Officer and Public Affairs Director for City Park Improvement Association:

The claim in the book is a falsehood.  The Sugar Bowl Committee pledged 800k to the park after the storm.  They have given us 600k to date and are scheduled to pay us 100k each of the next two years.  The entirety of their donations have gone to make improvements in Tad Gormley Stadium which seats 26,000.  The stadium is used extensively for high school football games, as well as soccer and track meets.

We are proud and extremely grateful for the support from the Sugar Bowl Committee!

Mr. Hopper was also kind enough to send over some great before and after pictures of Tad Gormley Stadium, which you can see below.

Tad Gromley Stadium – Before and After

When I inquired about the situation to John Sudsbury, the Director of Communications and Media Relations for the Sugar Bowl, he responded as follows:

The information supplied to you by Mr. Hopper is correct – we provided funds to New Orleans City Park following Hurricane Katrina.  I cannot speak for the authors of the book on why they did not find any evidence of any donations.  If they had contacted us, we could have provided them the information.

Mr. Sudsbury went on to tell me that the initial $400,000 donation was made in 2006-2007 for “major capital improvements.”  He says the remaining $400,000 is being made in $100,000 increments for maintenance and upkeep.

As someone who is currently finishing up a book, I understand that it’s hard to look under every stone.  In my experience, I’m never going to feel like my book is done.  There’s always something I could add.

That being said, I’m fairly disappointed in the authors of this book for this particular inaccuracy.  It was a bold statement; a statement that I, as a writer, would have been fearful of making if I wasn’t as close to one hundred percent sure as possible.

So how long did it take me to find the information to write this piece?  Well, I found the Times-Picuyane article in mere seconds.  It was the first entry on Yahoo when I searched “Sugar Bowl Katrina donations.”  That’s all it would have taken the authors to figure out they might be wrong.

The rest of the research, emails and phone calls have taken me about four hours.  Not really any longer than researching for some of my other SportsMoney pieces.

The information provided by the authors, and the opinions they formed, were largely based on tax returns from 2005-2007.  There are indeed no line items on those tax returns that show any charitable donations.  When I inquired of Mr. Sudsbury, he indicated that the donations were included under “Special Appropriations” on the Form 990 completed by outside accounting professionals.

Perhaps the error is in the preparation of the tax returns, but I do not have the expertise to make that judgment.  The Sugar Bowl did include a schedule to their 2008 return that showed a specific line item for a $100,000 donation to Friends of City Park, which is the fundraising arm for City Park.  That, combined with the statements of Mr. Hopper and Mr. Sudsbury, satisfy me that the donation was indeed made.

As such, I retract any and all statement I’ve made on Twitter regarding the Sugar Bowl’s lack of charitable donations in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.  I was thrilled to find out I was wrong.

While I do recommend anyone interested in college football read Death to the BCS, I also encourage you to do your own research.  It’s a very compelling read, and I’m intrigued by the playoff format they suggest, but I find myself questioning their facts now.  That’s the unfortunate result of their making a bold statement that was fairly easily proved to be false.

This article offers the personal observations of Kristi Dosh, and does not represent the views of her law firm or its clients. Any information contained herein does not constitute legal advice. Consult your own attorney for legal advice on these matters.

DeMaurice Smith

Cracking Down on Agent Payments to College Athletes

If you believe there is an issue with agent-amateur player relations (and not everyone does), then there may finally be a resolution on the horizon.

The majority of states certify agents through a licensing process.  To date, the recourse options for a school or athlete who is wronged by an agent have been limited to cases brought under state agent laws.  Although the laws vary from state to state, most are based on the Uniform Athlete Agent Act.  In all states with such laws, the school can sue the agent.  In a small number of states, the school can also sue the athlete.  In an even smaller number of states, the athlete can sue the agent.

We all know whenever there’s a possible lawsuit, people will sue.  Except when it comes to agent impropriety.  Despite fines and sanctions as crippling as being banned from the bowl season, schools do not sue agents.  I won’t get into a long explanation on that here, but the bottom line is that schools would probably do more harm than good by filing suit and opening themselves up to discovery requests that could uncover the dreaded “lack of institutional control.”

Without suits that could inflict severe monetary penalties on disobedient agents, the only recourse left is an administrative fine assessed by the agency that regulates agents in the given state and, in some states, criminal actions.  Only the agencies generally aren’t staffed to investigate agent misconduct.  In fact, when the North Carolina Secretary of State decided to investigate issues with players at the University of North Carolina earlier this year, they had to use employees who normally investigate securities fraud.

Which brings me to the latest development on this front, one that has the possibility of being a real solution.  Clearly, state agencies are not equipped to handle the situation, and schools are not going to risk opening up their entire program to discovery requests by filing suit.  The NCAA can inflict no penalties upon the agents, only the schools and athletes.  So, who has the ability to take control of the situation?  The professional leagues.

This week, the NCAA announced it has formed a 20-person group with representatives from the NCAA, NFL, and NFL Players Association, and agents and state law enforcement officials.  Members include Jim Delaney (Big 10 Commissioner), Mike Slive (SEC Commissioner), Bill Pollan (Team President, Indianapolis Colts), Rich McKay (Team President, Atlanta Falcons), and Arthur McAfee (NFLPA counsel), amongst others.  The members met last week and plan to meet again next month.

The NFLPA already certifies agents who represent NFL players and has the ability to fine those agents.  However, the most ground-breaking topic of discussion currently is extending fines to players who were involved in improper dealings at the collegiate level and go on to play in the NFL.  Those players could also be hit with suspensions once in the league.

Rick Smith, one of the agents in the group, said on Monday that changes could be in place within three to five months.  “Something is going to happen, and it’s going to happen quickly,” he said when speaking on the subject.

Obviously, improper conduct by agents dealing with college athletes has been going on as long as there have been agents.  However, with the exception of a handful, agents have suffered no consequences.  The athlete loses eligibility, the school vacates wins, bowl/playoff bans are handed down, but the agent usually walks.

If the leagues have decided this is an issue that requires action, as it appears the NFL has by their participation in this group, they have the power to change the future of agent-collegiate athlete relations.  Not only can they fine the agent and the player, they could go so far as to ban an agent from representing players in the league.  Though the bans have been handed out in extreme situations in the past, the NFLPA seems committed to stricter enforcement.  Last week, the NFLPA decertified Josh Luchs, the agent who came forward in a recent Sports Illustrated article and admitted to paying 30 players from 1990-1996.  Although his ban is without much meaning because he says he’s already left the business, the NFLPA could use the stricter enforcement of that power to control agents in a way the NCAA cannot.

The addition of fines and other punishments for athletes once on the NFL level could have a significant impact as well.  A player like Reggie Bush who escaped the punishment endured by his academic institution could be fined and/or suspended as an NFL player.

As in any business, I think there will always be deals made under the table.  However, there’s no excuse for the current situation where agents have virtually no accountability and abuse of the rules is so rampant.  If this group can move quickly in implementing new, more stringent rules, I will be exceedingly impressed with the NFL and NFLPA for making it their problem going forward.

This article offers the personal observations of Kristi Dosh, and does not represent the views of her law firm or its clients. Any information contained herein does not constitute legal advice. Consult your own attorney for legal advice on these matters.

BCS

How Do You Take Down the BCS?

It’s something many seem to want, but no one can seem to get: the end of the BCS Bowl Championship Series as we know it.

There are have been numerous efforts to take down this particular Goliath, but none successful.  So, what’s the right way to attempt to effectuate change to the system?

I have no idea.  What I do know is that I have found myself supporting the efforts of Playoff PAC.  You can read my previous pieces on the group here and here.

Today, I received an email from Mr. Maury Litwack pointing me towards his latest blog, in which he chastises Playoff PAC for their efforts.  While I appreciate his enthusiasm for the subject, I have to respectfully disagree with several of his points.

Mr. Litwack thinks Playoff PAC’s recent IRS complaint accomplishes nothing for the group, noting it could have been done by anyone.  He wonders how attacking the non-profit designation of the BCS bowls will help Playoff PAC achieve their goal.  First of all, if the bowls were stripped of their non-profit status, it would inflict very real pain.  Right now they pay no taxes on their considerable income and, in some cases, receive government loans and grants.

Mr. Litwack asks in his blog, “Where is the clear message to legislators and supporters to encourage a specific legislative fix in light of these complaints?”  My answer is that they are preparing for battle.  They cannot send supporters in Congress into battle with an argument about how the BCS system is simply unfair.  They need to be armed with issues that violate laws and impact taxpayers.  Congress isn’t going to step into a fight that’s simply over whether Boise State should play in the title game.

In my opinion, this battle is going to take more than a single pebble launched by one valiant David.  If it were that easy, the BCS system as we know it would already be extinct.  Instead, I believe it will take a whole army of Davids, each chinking away at Goliath’s armor little by little.

Is it enough to point out the inherent unfairness produced by the BCS?  Obvioulsy not.  What about claims that antitrust laws have been violated?  Again, that tactic has not been succesful.  Attacking the bowls for activities that bring their non-profit status into question?  Revealing political contributions and involvement such bowls shouldn’t be engaging in?  Showing government grants going to organizations who are not in need?

I believe it will take all of these things and more to bring down the BCS.  I applaud Playoff PAC for compiling resources on their website that cover a whole spectrum of issues, from the unfairness of a system that allows a team with no wins to take home more money than a team with an undefeated season, simply because of their conference affiliation, to the various inconsistencies revealed in the IRS complaint.

Based on Mr. Litwack’s research, Playoff PAC has not donated to any political campaigns, which he sees as a flaw.  I have to disagree.  PACs like Playoff PAC are funded by donors.  Nothing requires that a PAC donate to compaigns.  If their donors don’t like the way they’re attempting to effectuate change, they’ll simply stop donating.  There’s no misuse of taxpayer money (which is more than I can say for the bowls themselves).

Personally, if I were a donor, I’d rather see my money put to better use than lining a politician’s campaign coffers in the hopes (s)he’ll support our cause.  The group is doing their research and beginning to take action.  I’m assuming they have more than just the IRS complaint up their sleeve.

It shouldn’t take political contributions to convince an elected official to support a war against the BCS.  Cold hard facts and an informed electorate who either elect the right people or encourage their elected officials to support change should be enough.

So, while I think Mr. Litwack has written a thoughtful piece, I decline to agree with his admonition of Playoff PAC and continue to support their efforts.

This article offers the personal observations of Kristi Dosh, and does not represent the views of her law firm or its clients. Any information contained herein does not constitute legal advice. Consult your own attorney for legal advice on these matters.